Bernards is playing like it wants no part of any rebuilding/transitional season label.
The Mountaineers are 3-1 after Friday night’s 27-0 rout of Belvidere at Olcott Field. Last year Bernards survived 33-28 at Belvidere with a late goal-line stand, then whipped New Providence 42-3 the following week at home to win a Mid State 38 Union Division title. The Mountaineers won the MS 39 Hills Division title in 2011 before the conference was realigned after North Warren’s departure. New Providence won the Union title in 2011.
Bernards – outside of a 33-13 loss Brearley, which lost to Belvidere 26-6 two weeks ago – is pretty much in the same place as last year, but without stars John Maddaluna, Devin Ray, Zack DeLeon, Jon Diamond, etc. Only four Mountaineers returners either started or played significant minutes – junior quarterback Tyler Baum, senior back/corner Rob Schaufler and senior two-way linemen Will Kenny and Mike St. Onge.
“It was nice,” Bernards coach Jon Simoneau said of beating Belvidere, “but we have a lot of stuff to fix. We should have doubled that score. We can do better.”
They will need to be with a trip to New Providence and a division title at stake Friday night at Leider Field.
Watchung Division showdown
Defending MS 38 Watchung champ Ridge (4-0, 3-0) heads to Clinton Friday night to face North Hunterdon (3-1, 3-1), which has shown to have its most-balanced team in years. The running game and defense is what is clearly better and senior quarterback Marc Monks has yet to have a big passing game – outside of the second half of a 38-35 loss at Montgomery when he entered after he had rested the entire week with a hip flexor. The Lions say Monks’ first-half absence wasn’t the reason they lost at Montgomery. They know a similar slow start against Ridge will doom their chances. They are going to need their best effort of the year.
“We’re pretty much going to have to be perfect,” said Lions senior Mike Mastrobattista.
Ridge is winning by an average of 29 points per game, and averaging 39.78 per contest. North is winning by an average of 17 points per game and scoring just over 30 per game.
Ridge has won the last two games in the series.
Middlesex falls short
Middlesex quarterback Brandon Bollin was sidelined twice in Saturday’s 14-7 home loss to Keyport. Bollin completed 1 of 5 attempts for 16 yards before leaving the game with 9:10 remaining with an apparent upper body injury.
Bollin had been cleared to return later in the quarter with the Blue Jays having one final possession, coach Brett Stibitz said. Instead, Stibitz called on backup AJ Abate with about three minutes left. Middlesex failed to get a first down and Keyport sealed the decision.
“As the head coach, safety comes first. We wanted Bollin) to get a couple snaps but we were concerned about his safety,” Stibitz said. “If we got a first down (on that last series), we were going to put him back in the game.”
Senior Jacob Giuliano wasn’t able to carry the Blue Jays, but came about as close as a player could. He scored on a 49-yard interception return with 8:14 left. He eluded quarterback Alex Thomson with a nice spin move near the sideline. Giuliani forced a fumble on a punt return to put the Blue Jays at the Keyport 4 in the first half, but Middlesex failed to take advantage.
“That’s a senior who stepped up and wanted to beat Keyport for the first time ever,” Stibitz said. “We had some guys who came to play and he was one of them.”
South Plainfield hits milestone
South Plainfield is 3-0 for the first time since 1982 behind an offense averaging 40 points per game. The balanced attack is powered by Roemello Monroe (389 yards rushing and 5 TDs) and quarterback Kyle Moroney (561 passing yards).
Moroney converted 10 of 18 attempts for 251 yards in Friday night’s win over Woodbridge The amazing thing is Moroney did most of it with one of his top targets, Jason Lee, sidelined with an injury. Junior Trey Martinez, making his varsity debut, caught three passes for a game-high 114 yards and score. Despite being 6-foot-1, Martinez snuck behind the defense to make plays, including a 51-yard catch to set up Monroe’s second TD.
South Plainfield has scored more points in three games this season (120 points) than it did in seven games last season (108 points).
“I don’t think our offense is clicking at all,” South Plainfield coach Gary Cassio said. “Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments, but we need to get over our mistakes.”
South Plainfield visits Bishop Ahr Friday night in Edison. The Trojans edged South Plainfield 14-13 last year.
“It was a bad loss last year,” Cassio said. “These boys on our team are hungry and they don’t feel like they’re getting any respect. I think they’re waking people up, but the target gets bigger on their backs and they know that.”